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APRD 3006 History of Advertising


Dean Colby, PhD



This course examines the historical development of modern US advertising from cultural and social perspectives. Advertising history encompasses an exploration of the rise of modern consumer society and problems associated with sustaining growth, maintaining social cohesion while promoting the putative freedom found in consumer choice, the friction between art and commerce and professionalism and hucksterism. In short, the study of the history of advertising, like perhaps no other media text, reveals the contradictions of consumer capitalism that inspire as much awe as revulsion. The assessment of students’ understanding is mostly the product of textual analyses of advertising throughout history, along with short essays, and/or examinations.


Understanding the role of advertising in contemporary industrial society requires understanding the necessary marriage between advertising and consumer capitalism. By understanding the past it is possible to interrogate the present as the reproduction of specific forms of social ordering as well as opportunities for change. Socially, advertising plays an important role in maintaining a received reality of accelerating consumption as crucial to the survival of civilization while occasionally challenging the sustainability of such growth. Culturally, the history of advertising is the reverie of endless desire and endless abundance. The social and cultural histories of advertising provide students the raw material to either improve the effectiveness of advertising, and to question whether such effectiveness is possible or even desirable.

These objectives will help students:

  • Engage in a deep reading of the history of US advertising.
  • Summarize the student’s experience as a media producer and consumer in light of what you know about the history of advertising.
  • Analyze interesting patterns between the student’s own experience with advertising and how these experiences were in large part of mediated through naturalized assumptions about the historical shifting role of advertising in society.
  • Evaluate and critically explain the ways that advertising reveals social pathologies through textual analysis of advertising texts.
  • Recommend a solution to problems imposed by advertising in light of a deep understanding of the word of advertising in the history of US consumer capitalism.


  • Course packet of disparate readings


Essays/projects 100 Points Each
Reading-comprehension responses (10) 30 Points Each
Discussions (weekly) 20 Points Each
Midterm / Final 100 Points Each
Total 900 Points

The total number of points in the course is 900. The final course grade will be calculated on a straight percentage basis, as follows:

Percentage grade Course grade
93-100 A
90-92 A-
87-89 B+
83-86 B
80-82 B-
77-79 C+
73-76 C
70-72 C-
67-69 D+
63-66 D
60-62 D-
59 or less F


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